Romaplasmic Rumblings from Baths’ Will Wiesenfeld

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Baths
Baths | photo by Mario Luna | courtesy of the artist

As Baths, Will Wiesenfeld has a rare gift for making the fantastic feel smaller, more intimate, and vice versa. Over the course of three records and various singles, he has built a subtle but instantly distinct world where emotional epiphanies will seem to appear out of nowhere from networks of beats and ambient sounds that move and mutate around each other with an impressive fluidity. This is no small feat, particularly considering the specifically queer bent those epiphanies take on record while also feeling universal.

His latest album, 2017’s Romaplasm, offers the most vivid and welcoming tour of his world yet. He’ll be opening that world on stage tonight at The Foundry here in Philadelphia. I caught up with Will while he was on the road to talk about the artistic influences and evolution that went into making his most accessible statement to date while staying true to his interests…

The Key: This album was steeped in a lot of your “at-home” obsessions. You talk a lot about your love of anime, video games, and comic books in your press materials. What is it about these things that evoke more emotion for you than other interests?

Will Wiesenfeld: I think it’s just that I tend to spend more time engaged with them, and that I know that that is the stuff that is cycling around most of the time in my brain. I’m inspired by fantasy situations and a lot of the songs that I write exist in that mode more than in the “real world.” My creative brain lives inside of that realm of media, so I wanted to tap into that in a more brazen way than I used to.

TK: Has that always been the case for you or did something happen that caused your interests to shift toward that realm?

WW: I’ve always been drawn to that stuff but I don’t think I’ve ever put out a statement as fully immersed in it as this album was. I’ve done it in pieces and even in full songs in the past, but never as a full album statement. I thought it was important for me to do something like that.

TK: Are there any particular works of fantasy that influences you more than others? Any good recommendations?

WW: There’s only one direct reference on the record. The song “Adam Copies” is a reference to Evangelion, the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. That’s been one of the peak inspirations in my life for a really long time. I still find it to be one the most creative enterprises to exist in the world.

There are a whole slew of other things though. There’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, a video game that I’ve played for hundreds of hours because I’m totally obsessed with it. It has really deep storytelling and a rich universe. Anything like that, basically. Anything that has really good world building is where I started with trying to write stuff.

TK: That sounds really cool.

WW: I think it’s also a thing where that’s typically not stuff you’d write a pop song about, but those things are as important to me as l’m sure a lot of real world experiences are for other songwriters. I can’t help but always internalize the things I get from that stuff emotionally in a similar way. Writing through that is just as honest if not more so to me.

I’m not necessarily super introverted, but I shut myself off from things that stress me out a lot. I kind of purposefully remove myself from situations that make me super uncomfortable; whereas a more creatively centered situation is something I can fully immerse myself in.

TK: Well it’s definitely been a reasonable time to want to withdraw from the world lately.

WW: Yeah it’s been a little crazy. The year I worked on this record and its lyrics certainly wasn’t as bad as it is now, but that’s kind of my typical MO anyway. That’s not to say I’m not trying to stay up to date and engaged with the world. My fantasy shit is just my passion so I can’t help but be honest about that and write about stuff through that.

TK: I get that, and like you said, there aren’t a lot of artists that are mining this particular genre for inspiration in their work. With that, were there any musical works that you were able to look to for inspiration or a kind of touchstone when making this record?

WW: I think I was listening to more pop music in general, and more club pop in particular. I liked stuff with a lot of energy. I was also listening to a lot of post-punk, anything that was faster and/or positive in some way. When I first started making the record, the one thing I wanted to hold on to was to be faster, with higher BPMs and shorter songs than I what I do normally.

When I got started, the working title of the record was Plasma, which I never wanted as the actual title was the right inspiration for it. It’s the force that gives heat and energy. I stuck to that as a push to make things more energetic.

TK: And then that blended with the idea of Romanticism in the music to become Romaplasm.

WW: Yeah. As I was working on the record, I realized how locked in I already was to the idea of Romanticism. I kind of found the wiki, started reading the whole thing, and was like “Oh this lines up completely with what I’m trying to do here.”

TK: You mentioned going out of your way to go faster and poppier this time around, and you can definitely hear that on the record. How is that affecting how you perform live?

WW: It’s a lot more energy for sure. I had to exercise a lot more leading up to this tour. It’s just a more frenetic show. I think I’m having a lot more fun on this tour, not because past ones were “worse” but because it’s different.

TK: You’ve actually been to Philly quite a bit in the past. Any fond or interesting memories of past shows?

WW: I do have a weird, really good one. We were playing at Union Transfer. It was the middle of our set and the lights went dark. Then suddenly, completely out of nowhere, when the lights came back on there was a girl just standing on the stage like two feet away from me. It was like she literally apparated like a ghost and I shrieked! We got her escorted off the stage and continued with the show but I was still like “Whoa! How did that happen?”

TK: I think I was at that show! At least I hope it didn’t happen twice.

WW: No that definitely didn’t happen more than once (laughs).

TK: In addition to Baths, you have a project called Geotic. What do you get out of each project that you don’t from the other, and what do you bring over to each from the other?

WW: The way I always describe the two is that Baths is like active listening, and Geotic is passive listening. There are still a million things that can exist under either of those labels, but basically Baths is an effort to make music where I want people to pay attention to it because I put of a lot of details in it. Geotic is made to be background music, or something you can comfortably listening to while doing other things. Being able to make music in those two very different ways is something that is very satisfying to me.

Usually, my process kind of moves comfortably back and forth between the two. I’m rarely working on two separate Baths records in a row, for example. It’s something where my inspirations and ideas alternately freely between them. It’s very nice to have two separate means of expressing myself and classifying my output.

Baths plays the Foundry of The Fillmore Philadelphia tonight; tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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